Six State AGs Warn NFL to Address Workplace Harassment, Or Face Investigation

Six State AGs Warn NFL to Address Workplace Harassment, Or Face Investigation The NFL Shield The NFL Shield (Paul Spinelli/AP)

By Jason Clemons | Wednesday, 06 April 2022 04:54 PM

The attorneys general from six states sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, warning the league could be subject to a major investigation, if recent claims of workplace harassment toward women and minorities aren't addressed and corrected.

Legal leaders from Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington composed and signed the letter to the NFL, demanding change within league circles.

The AGs include: Letitia James, D-N.Y., Kwame Raoul, D-Ill., Maura Healey, D-Mass., Ellen Rosenblum, D-Ore., Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Bob Ferguson, D-Wash.

"We write to express our grave concerns about the recent allegations in the New York Times by over thirty former employees of the National Football League, who described a workplace culture that is overtly hostile to women," the letter read.

The letter also added: "We the attorneys general of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington State, are deeply committed to enforcing federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws that protect workers and further equality of opportunity for employees throughout our states."

That referenced February story (above) chronicled how former NFL employees had become "demoralized" by the league's workplace culture.

One example, according to NYT, cites how some of the league's female employees were obligated to watch the 2014 video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator. The women were then allegedly asked to publicly share their own previous encounters with domestic violence.

The Times also said that women employees who had been passed over for NFL promotions were accused of taking an "aggressive tone" when speaking up.

And lastly, the six AGs noted complaints from female NFL employees, claiming they had previously attended league "parties where prostitutes were hired." There were also complaints of "unwanted touching by male bosses."

"All of this is entirely unacceptable and potentially unlawful. The N.F.L. must do better —pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace. Our offices will use the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation by employers throughout our states, including at the National Football League," the letter said.

Claims of a harmful work environment have extended to the playing field, as well.

Back in February, Brian Flores, formerly the head coach of the Miami Dolphins (2019-21) and now a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three clubs — the Dolphins, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos — alleging race discrimination in hiring practices.

It's worth noting: Of the 10 NFL head-coaching vacancies that were filled this offseason, three head coaches of color were hired: Lovie Smith (Houston Texans), Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Mike McDaniel (Dolphins), who grew up in a biracial household.

In a statement to The Hill, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league looks forward to documenting its commitment to ensuring that its offices and clubs have a respectful workplace for all employees.

"We share the commitment of the attorneys general to ensuring that all of our workplaces — including the league office and 32 clubs — are diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment. We have made great strides over the years in support of that commitment, but acknowledge that we, like many organizations, have more work to do," McCarthy said.

"We look forward to sharing with the attorneys general the policies, practices, protocols, education programs and partnerships we have implemented to act on this commitment and confirm that the league office and our clubs maintain a respectful workplace where all our employees, including women, have an opportunity to thrive."